At Garden State Towing, safety is our primary concern. Recent changes to Victorian road rules, however, leave tow truck drivers exposed to danger. This month, the Garden State Towing team talk to you about the legislation and what it means for the emergency tow truck services in Victoria.
Road Worker Safety
Of 1,600 emergency service and enforcement workers surveyed by VicRoads, over the past three years, 17% were almost hit by vehicles four or more times; 3% were injured while evading a passing vehicle; and 8% had their vehicles hit by passing cars.
To combat these statistics, Victoria introduced new road rules in July last year. Under the new legislation, drivers have to slow down to 40km/h when passing emergency, enforcement and first-responder vehicles with flashing lights.The legislation aims to protect the state’s roadside emergency services, including police, ambulances, and state transport vehicles (including those belonging to the Department of Fisheries). It does not, however, extend to towing services.
Four months after the new legislation came into effect, a tow truck driver lost his arm while attending an accident on the Peninsula Link. He was responding to a 4WD that had broken down in the emergency stopping lane.This is a routine job that requires no other emergency services, such as police or fire brigade. The new legislation, therefore, didn’t cover him. The car that hit the tow truck driver, travelling full speed, irrevocably severed the tow truck driver’s arm, flipped and landed on its roof.
Road Safety Legislation
The legislation extends to all flashing lights, with one major exception. Motorists now, by law, have to slow to 40km/h when passing red, blue or magenta flashing lights, but not yellow. On their website, VicRoads explains their decision to not include yellow flashing lights in the rainbow of red, blue and purple. They state the rule excludes yellow lights so that it is “easier for motorists to understand and comply” with the new rule — to slow down for some flashing lights, but not all, or face a fine.
Under the new road rules, motorists have to slow down and keep a safe distance from the flashing lights or siren of:
- Metropolitan Fire Brigade
- Country Fire Authority
- Forest Fire Management
- State Emergency Services
- Search and Rescue
- VicRoads Transport and Safety Service
- Enforcement vehicles under the control of State Transport bodies including the Department of Fisheries and Taxi Enforcement
- Other emergency patient transport
Alone on the Roads
The safety laws were implemented to improve the safety of “workers who are performing work on the road or roadside, as well as others who are present at the scene” (VicRoads). That this doesn’t include tow truck drivers is a major oversight. Police are only called out to accidents when there has been a collision, and paramedics when there has been an injury. For most of our emergency roadside towing services, we are alone.
We operate 24/7 on dangerous roads with nothing between us and the traffic. Our flashing lights warn drivers not only that there has been an accident, but that there are people working next to and on the road. A tow truck’s flashing lights warn motorists that there has been an accident and that there are people operating along the road. They are there to warn drivers of danger. They are there to increase our visibility and to protect us. We urge Minister for Roads and Road Safety, Luke Donellan, to amend the legislation to include tow truck services.
What can be Done?
Michael Burgess started a petition to include tow truck services among those covered by the new legislation. Currently, the petition has 6,600 signatures. We hope that more people will sign the petition and that the laws are extended to include us. Tow truck drivers are in just as much danger as the other roadside workers but aren’t covered by the current law. Please sign the petition here and share it with your friends and family.
Remember, for your own safety, as well as that of roadside workers, slow down when you see us. Keep a safe distance. Road safety is everybody’s concern. Working together, we can have safer, quieter roads.